#1
Hello folks. I am an old fart who put down my guitar 15 years ago and just decided to pick it back up. So, I ordered myself a new electric guitar but am completely stumped as to what to do about an amp these days.

Basically it seems to boil down to getting myself a Fender Mustang 1 (or the like) for $100 or some sort of USB interface and just playing on my PC. The second option actually seems more interesting to me because, I'm guessing I can use my PC to create drums and more effects and tones than I could with a cheap amp?

The thing is, it is totally confusing me. There a a billion and one types of interfaces ranging from $14 to hundreds. I hear talk of latency problems. Most of the interfaces come with software but I'll be damned if I know what all it actually does. Pods and ports and GX's and UX's and XT's oh my!!!

So, let me tell you what I'd like to be able to do and maybe you folks can help me sort this out? I just want to play my guitar, rock, and metal mostly, at home. I would love to be able to create simple drum tracks to play along with. Recording it would be a nice bonus. I do not want to buy some $120 interface and then wind up with only a trial version of the software and have to go spend $300 more on some EZ Drum thing, $300 more on some amp modeling thing, that in turn requires me to go spend another $300 on some DAW thingy that requires 4 years of college to learn to even use it!

I am quite the computer geek, so learning software and setting up a sound device is not a problem, as long as it's not some convoluted, huge super advanced studio recording stuff. The problem is I know nothing about it now and reading about it is like reading another language to me...it just confuses me more. So I can not even figure out for sure which software does what and if it is stand alone or requires something else to run in. I have no idea what to buy.
Last edited by Elvin Presler at Oct 12, 2011,
#3
Ok, looks good, but what does Pro Tools do? Just record? Drums? Modeling? Could this thing be used in place of an amp to just jam around the house or is the latency going to make that awkward?

What about a cheaper interface like http://www.amazon.com/Interface-Recording-Variable-speed-Playback-Function/dp/B003U6EW5U/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top
Then go and get my own drum + Modeling software to use with it?

Thanks for the info.
#4
I really wouldn't waste money on the sub-$100 interfaces, they are, for the most part, junk.

The Line 6 POD Studio GX or UX1 are a good place to start. As far as drums go, there are plenty of good programs you can download on the internet for free. Aside from using your own samples that you find, you could download Kontakt Player from NI Instruments and use the free drum samples you get with the sound pack. They are pretty good for being free, and there's also bass, synth and piano models in there as well.

The POD Studios come with POD Farm, which the Standard version is okay for amp modeling. I'd suggest you look into the TSE X50 and LePou plugins, which are free, and easily rival the Platinum version of POD Farm.

For recording software, I believe it comes with Ableton Live Lite, but I never used it when I had my UX2. Download Reaper. It is free as long as you want to use it, and if you feel nice and want to buy it in the future, it's only $60 for the license. It is a VERY powerful DAW, which is easily as capable of getting the same great results as Pro Tools, Logic, Sonar, Cubase, etc.
Quote by Dave_Mc
I've had tube amps for a while now, but never actually had any go down on me
Quote by jj1565
maybe you're not saying the right things? an amp likes to know you care.





www.SanctityStudios.com
Last edited by MatrixClaw at Oct 12, 2011,
#5
Another thing. The Fender Mustang has a USB out. Wouldn't this work as a USB interface too? So I could run the amp clean into my PC from that and then use Amp Modeling software to record and get the sound I want just like these other USB interfaces? Meaning I could get the best of both for $99.99? No?
#6
I'm not sure if the Mustang can send a DI signal to your computer (which is different than running the amp clean) for amp modeling. However, $100 for an amp and interface, I can pretty much guarantee you that the recording quality is going to suffer. Recording is much more than just being able to plug something into your computer. The Mustang more than likely has very bad analogue to digital converters.

If quality is of utmost concern, buying a dedicated interface is a much better investment, but if you're looking for a way to jam out loud and just record ideas for reference, the Mustang should do.
Quote by Dave_Mc
I've had tube amps for a while now, but never actually had any go down on me
Quote by jj1565
maybe you're not saying the right things? an amp likes to know you care.





www.SanctityStudios.com
#7
I'm not sure what level of quality I would even need. 16 bit, 44100 is fine if that's what you mean? If you mean it would come out horrible scratchy and popping, buzzing or something than no. I just want to be able to jam out, then when I come up with something I like, toss a little drum track on the computer, play along with it and record both for future reference. It does not have to be high quality, as long is it's not god awful like these youtube videos you see of people recording themselves through their cheap camera mics to do an "amp review" that leaves me with no possible idea of how that amp really sounds.

I guess what I am getting at is that I don't want to buy an amp that I know is going to sound like poo due to my budget, then learn that I should have spent the same amount on an interface instead that maybe can do a better job via modeling software and give me the added bonus of being able to record and add virtual drums, etc. On the other hand I don't want to buy an audio interface only to find out it would require me to buy $999.99 worth of software that I am currently unaware of to make any decent use of it.
Last edited by Elvin Presler at Oct 12, 2011,
#8
^No. 16bit, 44100 means nothing if your tone is muddy and sound horrid from bad AD conversion. I could render white noise at 24 bit 196k and it'd still sound horrible.

To be honest, from what you've said you need, I think the Mustang will be fine. It will certainly not be as high of quality as going with a computer interface, but good enough for laying down ideas. I'd just be weary about its driver support.

With an interface, you definitely DON'T need to buy tons of software. All the stuff I listed earlier is free to use and with more searching on the internet, you can find some awesome plugins for EQ, Compression, etc. that will get you awesome recording results, once you learn how to use them. FWIW, the TSE X50 I spoke about earlier sounds so close to my real Peavey 5150, that I haven't even bothered micing my amp in a while
Quote by Dave_Mc
I've had tube amps for a while now, but never actually had any go down on me
Quote by jj1565
maybe you're not saying the right things? an amp likes to know you care.





www.SanctityStudios.com
Last edited by MatrixClaw at Oct 12, 2011,
#9
Isn't the audio in a little modeling amp digital to begin with? Does it even have analog to digital conversion? I figured the USB out on it was basically just a pass through? Anyway, thanks a lot for all the input (no pun intended) on this.
#10
Quote by PaisleyWilde
http://www.m-audio.com/products/en_us/MobilePre.html
This one works great and is pretty cheap!!


179?
I got the Fast Track Pro version for 149 and it has more features.

I've found using a DAW with plugins and having the ability to record more satisfying than plugging into an amp and playing. I love having an amp but you shell out so much for just an amp with distortion.

Quote by Elvin Presler
Isn't the audio in a little modeling amp digital to begin with? Does it even have analog to digital conversion? I figured the USB out on it was basically just a pass through? Anyway, thanks a lot for all the input (no pun intended) on this.


Of course it has a conversion if it's digital.
Last edited by Clay-man at Oct 12, 2011,
#11
Quote by Clay-man

I've found using a DAW with plugins and having the ability to record more satisfying than plugging into an amp and playing. I love having an amp but you shell out so much for just an amp with distortion.


That is exactly what I am thinking. Only I am finding these interfaces + DAW + Plugins to be WAY more expensive than having a real amp. That's why I am trying to learn about it first. I'm betting I can get a decent interface with bundled software for ~$100 or find some pretty good free software to get me started and buy the good stuff bit by bit later on?

Then again there is the option of the Fender Mustang and it's built in recording support (unless it truly sucks). Then I get both for the same $100? Apparently the Mustang comes with all the software as well that enhances the amp (stomp boxes, etc). From the sound of it, you can model it via software on your PC then the amp uses that modeling. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-lIGPznxo8

Then there are the Line 6 and Peavey Vypyrs, but they are just modeling amps with no recording on the lower end ones and from what I've seen they are built like cheap, plastic Chinese toys and sound like complete poo with a whole boatload of garbage effects and light show gimmicks that I could not care less about.

So for me, it looks like the Fender Mustang and it's recording support, or an audio interface and some good software to get a better sound on my PC then rout the audio to my Sony Receiver and bigger speakers + woofer and just use that as my amp. Still debating on that and trying to learn what I would really need to get and how much it will cost me.

Example: http://www.amazon.com/M-Audio-Fast-Track-USB-Interface/dp/B002QZ402Q/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1318456398&sr=8-2
I could get that Fast Trak for $98, plug my guitar into it, then into my PC, and correct me if I'm wrong, but my PC + Software would model the sound how I like then send it back to the FastTrak and on to my receiver via the RCA jacks in the back of the FastTrak? This would give me a world of "amp" models and sounds to play with, and play through my Sony receiver as an amp, yes? But, would there be a latency problem or would this work well as an alternative to a real amp?
Last edited by Elvin Presler at Oct 12, 2011,
#12
More expensive? There's plenty of free or cheap plugins. You get an amp and you can get a good distortion, but then you spend like 100 for single effects with stomp boxes.
The main reason I go with an interface is because it's so affordable and yet I can change my tone to whatever I want using plugins for a low price.

After you get that you just get a free DAW to record everything. Having the ability to record your ideas and riffs really helps a lot.
#13
I think I am on the same page as you Clay-man, just still confused as to how the interface actually functions. When I plug into it, how do I get the final, modeled/processed sound to speakers? Do I rout it from the interface to my big receiver or does it just come out my PC speakers via my existing sound card? Is there going to be a lot of latency by the time it goes from guitar > interface > PC/CPU/Modeling Software > back to interface? > receiver amp?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eybueGhmes
Perfect example of what I want, if this is what this guy is doing...because that sounds WAY better than any $100 amp is going to do.

EMU 0204 USB? http://www.amazon.com/Creative-MU-8740A-Audio-Interface/dp/B004GJXTQS
Last edited by Elvin Presler at Oct 12, 2011,
#14
Quote by Elvin Presler
That is exactly what I am thinking. Only I am finding these interfaces + DAW + Plugins to be WAY more expensive than having a real amp.

I think you're a bit confused here.

The difference is that the Interface + DAW + Plugin can get MUCH better results than a cheap amp. The tones you get out of modeling plugins can rival some pretty expensive amps, whereas the cheap amp is going to fall extremely short in comparison.

Quote by Elvin Presler
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eybueGhmes
Perfect example of what I want, if this is what this guy is doing...because that sounds WAY better than any $100 amp is going to do.

In the description, it tells you he's micing an amp.

Honestly, it sound really bad for a miced amp. I hate that tone

Fast Track + TSE X50 + LeCab2 (with Catharsis impulses) would utterly destroy that, for much less money.
Quote by Dave_Mc
I've had tube amps for a while now, but never actually had any go down on me
Quote by jj1565
maybe you're not saying the right things? an amp likes to know you care.





www.SanctityStudios.com
#15
Ah. OK. I got the impression he was modeling a big amp and plugged into a FastTrak. Oh well.

But yeah, I get that a decent interface + software would destroy a cheap amp. That's why I want to try it out. It's just much more confusing and I don't want to make all the wrong purchases out of ignorance. So anyway, an M-Audio Fast Track USB would be a good place to start? I'm eyeballing 4 products. Any particular good vs bad going on between these:

M-Audio Fast Track USB
Lexicon Alpha http://www.amazon.com/Lexicon-Alpha-Desktop-Recording-Studio/dp/B000HVXMNE
Line 6 POD Studio GX http://www.amazon.com/Line-6-POD-Studio-GX/dp/B001EHWD0I/ref=pd_cp_MI_1
Line 6 GuitarPort XT http://www.amazon.com/Line-6-99-072-0105-GuitarPort-XT/dp/B0000AJQ42/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1318440275&sr=8-1
Last edited by Elvin Presler at Oct 12, 2011,
#16
The Guitar Port XT doesn't come with the plugin version of Gearbox/POD Farm. If you go with a Line 6 product, get one from the POD Studio line, you will be able to track DIs of your guitar and then change settings later inside your DAW using POD Farm.

IMO, you should go with the Fast Track, though. The cheapest version comes with a mic input that has phantom power, so you can use a dynamic or condenser through it. The mic pres are also better than anything Line 6 has to offer (though, still not stellar, but better). The extra features means it has more expandability if you want to start micing amps, or recording vocals/whatever, whereas the Line 6 ones you linked, you'll probably outgrow quickly. I'm sure it probably comes with its own plugins for amp modeling, and the new version comes with Pro Tools SE 9, which is a really stripped-down version of Pro Tools, but it'll at least give you an intro into the program.

However, I'd suggest you just download Reaper as your DAW (it's free until you feel like paying for it, which you don't have to), for whichever interface you end up getting, it is just as powerful as the full version of Pro Tools, and it runs VST plugins, instead of RTAS, which means you have access to all the awesome free plugins available on the internet. Then, go find TSE X50 and LePou LeCab2 and download both, then Google for Catharsis impulses. When you get your interface, load up Reaper, place X50 and LeCab2 as FX on the tracks and load whichever Catharsis impulse you want into LeCab, and go to town with awesome t0anz.
Quote by Dave_Mc
I've had tube amps for a while now, but never actually had any go down on me
Quote by jj1565
maybe you're not saying the right things? an amp likes to know you care.





www.SanctityStudios.com
#17
Alright then. I think I will probably take that advice and get the best Fast Track I can afford, then start experimenting with all the other stuff you mentioned (I'm sure it will make sense later, lol). I read a few reviews/comments on Fast Tracks causing problems, but I know half the time that stuff is user error, especially when you're dealing with a PC. The good thing for me is, I know PCs! I just have to learn the interface stuff now.

Big thanks for all the info guys.
#18
See if your local Guitar Center has a JamVox. Last time I saw one at mine (it was recently) the price was $70. It is USB to the computer has small speakers built in and has some very easy software for playing along with backing tracks and drums, plus recording. It's not a full DAW but it's very simple and has FX and models.
#19
Quote by Elvin Presler
Alright then. I think I will probably take that advice and get the best Fast Track I can afford, then start experimenting with all the other stuff you mentioned (I'm sure it will make sense later, lol). I read a few reviews/comments on Fast Tracks causing problems, but I know half the time that stuff is user error, especially when you're dealing with a PC. The good thing for me is, I know PCs! I just have to learn the interface stuff now.

Big thanks for all the info guys.

If you can afford better than the standard Fast Track, I'd suggest going with a Focusrite Saffire 6 instead. You should be able to get one on eBay new for $170 or less (there's an unused one on eBay right now with a starting price of $99 that ends tomorrow), and the mic preamps on those are awesome. I use the Saffire Pro 40 in my studio, and the Saffire 6 has the same preamps as it does Plus, Focusrite is known for their extremely reliable drivers and customer support on their units.
Quote by Dave_Mc
I've had tube amps for a while now, but never actually had any go down on me
Quote by jj1565
maybe you're not saying the right things? an amp likes to know you care.





www.SanctityStudios.com
Last edited by MatrixClaw at Oct 12, 2011,
#20
Ugh....what is the difference between:

M-Audio Fast Track USB 2 http://www.amazon.com/M-Audio-Fast-Track-USB-Interface/dp/B002QZ402Q/ref=sr_1_1?s=musical-instruments&ie=UTF8&qid=1318467613&sr=1-1

and

Avid Recording Studio http://www.amazon.com/Avid-Technology-Recording-Studio/dp/B0041OSWUG/ref=sr_1_7?s=musical-instruments&ie=UTF8&qid=1318467613&sr=1-7

The Focusrite Saffire 6 is a bit out of my range right now, but thanks. I'll google that JamVox and see...
Last edited by Elvin Presler at Oct 12, 2011,
#21
Quote by Elvin Presler

Looking at the specs, I don't see any differences.

Avid owns M-Audio. It even says on the spec sheet that the Avid Recording Studio comes with a Fast Track. The MSRP on the Avid Recording Studio is lower than it is on the M-Audio, weird.

Quote by Elvin Presler
The Focusrite Saffire 6 is a bit out of my range right now, but thanks.

If you can use eBay, and the one I talked about stays cheap, it'd be worth a few bucks over the Fast Track for sure.
Quote by Dave_Mc
I've had tube amps for a while now, but never actually had any go down on me
Quote by jj1565
maybe you're not saying the right things? an amp likes to know you care.





www.SanctityStudios.com
#22
Screeeech! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7IPKqt7z2w
At 1:20 he talks about a direct monitor button to listen with headphones "so you don't experience the delay". OK, this is important to me. I would be using this as my only practice amp constantly. I can not be wearing headphones. Is this going to work for that or will there be a delay in the "processed" sound from my guitar to the speakers the sound comes out of? If so, I can't do this, and will have to settle for a cheap amp for now.

Quote by MatrixClaw
The MSRP on the Avid Recording Studio is lower than it is on the M-Audio, weird.


Yeah...maybe a different software bundle? When I first saw the Avid version it said $70something now I looked again a few minutes later and it says $106.
Last edited by Elvin Presler at Oct 12, 2011,
#23
Quote by Elvin Presler
Screeeech! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7IPKqt7z2w
At 1:20 he talks about a direct monitor button to listen with headphones "so you don't experience the delay". OK, this is important to me. I would be using this as my only practice amp constantly. I can not be wearing headphones. Is this going to work for that or will there be a delay in the "processed" sound from my guitar to the speakers the sound comes out of? If so, I can't do this, and will have to settle for a cheap amp for now.

Meh, I'm assuming you're just using computer speakers. You can just get a 1/8" to 1/4" adapter at Radioshack for $2 and plug your speakers into the headphone jack.

Quote by Elvin Presler
Yeah...maybe a different software bundle?

Not that I can tell, they both come with Pro Tools SE. Weird...
Quote by Dave_Mc
I've had tube amps for a while now, but never actually had any go down on me
Quote by jj1565
maybe you're not saying the right things? an amp likes to know you care.





www.SanctityStudios.com
#24
Quote by MatrixClaw
Meh, I'm assuming you're just using computer speakers. You can just get a 1/8" to 1/4" adapter at Radioshack for $2 and plug your speakers into the headphone jack.


Not that I can tell, they both come with Pro Tools SE. Weird...



Actually I'd like to run the audio to my Sony receiver and house stereo speakers + subwoofer. Thing is, is the audio coming out at the headphone or line out jack on the Fast Track going to be processed yet? Or is it just raw, clean sound from the guitar before it ever gets to the computer for effects? I want to hear the processed sound like I would using an amp. If that part is going to be delayed at all, I'm going to need to go with a regular amp for now.
#25
Does anyone know if there would be noticeable latency using one of these audio devices + PC software as an amp substitute and the audio coming out after the amp modeling and effects, or is that just when you record and run extra tracks etc? I don't care if there is a little latency while recording, but can't have it when just playing through modeling/effect software and using the rig as my primary and only amp or I'd do better to just get a cheap amp for now and get recording stuff later.

My PC Specs:
Windows 7 Pro x64
AMD Phenom II 955 Quad Core CPU @ 3.21 GHz
4 GB RAM DDR3 @ 1333 (is actually 1600 but I don't clock it that high)
300 GB SATA hard drive x 2 (not raid but I could do that if it was needed)
Asus Xonar DG sound card (if that is relevant)
#26
Quote by Elvin Presler
Actually I'd like to run the audio to my Sony receiver and house stereo speakers + subwoofer. Thing is, is the audio coming out at the headphone or line out jack on the Fast Track going to be processed yet? Or is it just raw, clean sound from the guitar before it ever gets to the computer for effects? I want to hear the processed sound like I would using an amp. If that part is going to be delayed at all, I'm going to need to go with a regular amp for now.

The sound coming out of both is the sound from whatever your software is setup for.

Quote by Elvin Presler
Does anyone know if there would be noticeable latency using one of these audio devices + PC software as an amp substitute and the audio coming out after the amp modeling and effects, or is that just when you record and run extra tracks etc? I don't care if there is a little latency while recording, but can't have it when just playing through modeling/effect software and using the rig as my primary and only amp or I'd do better to just get a cheap amp for now and get recording stuff later.

My PC Specs:
Windows 7 Pro x64
AMD Phenom II 955 Quad Core CPU @ 3.21 GHz
4 GB RAM DDR3 @ 1333 (is actually 1600 but I don't clock it that high)
300 GB SATA hard drive x 2 (not raid but I could do that if it was needed)
Asus Xonar DG sound card (if that is relevant)

I actually run a similar computer setup and that is more than enough to run at very low-latency.

There may be latency problems if you're running a crap ton of effects (for example, if you're recording vocals, monitoring with 2 compressors, an EQ, delay/verb, saturation, etc. on the track, but amp modeling should have no problem.
Quote by Dave_Mc
I've had tube amps for a while now, but never actually had any go down on me
Quote by jj1565
maybe you're not saying the right things? an amp likes to know you care.





www.SanctityStudios.com
#27
Alright, thanks again. I'm not real big on effects other than a bit of distortion so I should be fine then. I also keep my PC running very lean and fast, so another plus there. I guess I'll look around some more today, then pull the trigger on a Fast Track or similar tonight.

Thanks again for all the info and your time.

Edit: I pulled the trigger and ordered the Fast Track. Wish me luck!
Last edited by Elvin Presler at Oct 13, 2011,
#29
I wanted to pop back in and say a big thanks again for the advice here. I went with the Fast Track USB and Reaper, and both are working great for me. No latency issues so far and it sounds so much better than the cheap amp option would have. I made my first little test recording with it and figured I'd link you up and let you see what you started! It's just a 40 second clip of the first song I am working on. Enjoy!

http://home.comcast.net/~clayton_hill/CHill-Lost_In_The_Mist.mp3
#30
Quote by MatrixClaw
The Line 6 POD Studio GX or UX1 are a good place to start. As far as drums go, there are plenty of good programs you can download on the internet for free. Aside from using your own samples that you find, you could download Kontakt Player from NI Instruments and use the free drum samples you get with the sound pack. They are pretty good for being free, and there's also bass, synth and piano models in there as well.

The POD Studios come with POD Farm

+311

That is what I use. It works great and also gives you an interface for a mic in the event you get an actual amp later as well as a headphone jack.


Edit: Never mind. Looks like you settled in on something. MatrixClaw spent a ton of time helping you in this thread. Make sure you give him a big hug. Clip sounds great man - that is right up MatrixClaw's ally so make sure he hears it.




Edit: Go play a Peavey Vypyr 60 sometime - it will change your mind regarding the amp.
Last edited by 311ZOSOVHJH at Oct 28, 2011,
#31
When I can afford one. Yep. I had an old 100w Gallien Krueger and 2x12 Crate cabinet until recently. Gave it away because I wasn't using it. And definitely a big thanks to Matrix Claw
Last edited by Elvin Presler at Oct 28, 2011,